Moran's Yellowstone trip of 1900 was part of a larger journey that included stops in Utah and Idaho. It was the Idaho
leg of the trip--the rail and stage expedition to Shoshone Falls on the Snake River--that resulted in Moran's last major western landscape.
Unlike Yellowstone, at the turn of the century Shoshone Falls was a "fresh" subject. The large scale of the image (6 x 11 feet) suggests that
from the outset, Moran conceived the work as a picture for a special exhibition; it is likely he hoped to exhibit the painting in the Pan-American Exposition
to be held in Buffalo, New York, the following year. As early as 1866, Shoshone Falls had been called the "Niagara of the West," when a newspaper article described the cataract as
"a world wonder which for savage scenery and power sublime stands unrivaled in America." Western enthusiasts were quick to point out that Shoshone Falls was approximately fifty feet higher
than Niagara and that the rush of water over the lava cliffs was every bit as magnificent.